A huge variation in the quality of support for children with special needs and disabilities (SEND) across the country is set out in a report published today.
The report gives each local authority in England a score based on a new measure of inclusivity devised by education consultancy Mime.
The measure comprises 12 main indicators including the proportion of pupils with SEND supported in mainstream schools; attainment and exclusion levels; and the overall numbers of pupils with education, health and care plans (EHCPs).
According to the report, London offers, on average, a far more supportive environment for pupils with SEND than England's other regions.
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The report also says that the three most inclusive local authorities are all within London, with Westminster taking the top spot, followed by Barnet and Kingston-upon-Thames.
Support for SEND pupils
The report states: "Since SEND policies are not implemented on a regional level, we might not expect to see such a consistent pattern of inclusion within London. However, factors such as diversity, funding, geography, availability of provision and even attitudes towards inclusion may be causing a London-specific effect."
However, the findings contrast with a report by London Councils in September, which warned that there were “too many examples of unfair admissions practice, off-rolling and inappropriate exclusions” of pupils with SEND in the capital.
Meanwhile, the areas given the lowest overall scores were Staffordshire, Torbay and Somerset.
This was mainly due to relatively strong academic attainment and progress scores by primary pupils who have EHCPs.
The research also found a "big gap" between London and the next best performing regions. Outer London scored 60.9 out of a possible 100 points, followed by Inner London on 59.1, while Yorkshire and The Humber – which came in third place – was given 51.9. At the bottom of the table was the West Midlands, with 41.6 points.
Mime said that the aim of the research was not to "name and shame", rather to "learn and share". It added: "Ultimately, we want to investigate whether it is feasible to use data to measure inclusive practices, and what the quirks and caveats are in attempting to do so."
Steve Preston, managing director of Mime, said: "An inclusive education is one where every pupil has equal access to opportunities to learn and fulfil their potential. We hope that this exploration of the available data will help decision-makers assess whether there is high quality local provision for SEND pupils, and to learn from similar areas across the country.
"While we acknowledge that an education in a mainstream school will not suit every child, especially those with more complex needs, this was our starting point for measuring an inclusive system as a positive step for most children.
"One area where there is not yet available data is social and emotional outcomes. Pupils with special needs in these areas account for a sixth of the SEND cohort in England.
"It is important for schools to monitor the progress of SEND pupils in all areas of their development, not just academic; in time it should be possible to analyse data about non-academic progress, for example by aggregating information from education, health and care plans.
"Lastly, we call on the government to publish off-rolling statistics so we can have a fuller picture of an inclusive education system in England.”